by Mandy Green
Head Soccer Coach, University of South Dakota and Time Management Expert
Coach you probably can relate to this scene I’m about to paint:
Have you ever started an email which should take you five minutes to write, then your assistant comes in and talks for five minutes. Then your email notification ringer goes off so you quickly check your email wasting another 5-10 minutes. Then just as you are getting back to the email you were writing, your phone rings. Before you know it, an hour has gone by and your quick email that was going to take you five minutes is still not written.
Every coach likes to think they’re great at multi-tasking, and some of them actually are. But there’s a limit to how many things you can do at once without taking away from the quality of your work, plus it almost always greatly increases the time it takes to finish each project.
Experts estimate that the tendency to start and stop a task, to pick it up, put it down and come back to it can increase the time necessary to complete the task by as much as 500%. That means that a task that should take 10 minutes to complete now takes almost an hour.
Each time you leave one task and go to another, you have to mentally shift gears: You have to familiarize yourself with where you were when you stopped that task and what you still have to do. You then have to develop momentum and get into a productive work rhythm… but before you do that, you’ll probably be tempted to switch to yet another task, starting the process over again.
That’s why it is very important to absorb yourself with one thing at a time. Give that task your full focus and attention and complete it before moving on to the next thing. By concentrating single-mindedly on your most important task, you can reduce the time required to complete it by 50% or more. Do your most important task first. Do it until it’s completed. Then, and only then, move on to the next most important task.
One thing I have found extremely helpful in staying focused is to have a notebook nearby so I can write down any thoughts of other tasks that I remember that I need to do that may come into my head. So if I am writing an email and I remember that I need to call a coach, I write it down instead of immediately making the call. Writing it down allows me to get the thought out of my head and then I can immediately get back to staying focused on finishing my email, which results in the email getting done a lot quicker. When the email is finished, I will make the call.
This technique is especially useful if I am searching for something on the internet. I would start searching for an article or looking into getting a flight and I found I used to always get distracted and start clicking other links. Before I knew it, I had wasted an hour going from website to website and was no-where close to finding what I got on the internet to begin with. So now, instead of clicking on every link that interests me I write the link down and I stay focused on accomplishing what I was working on. I try to do all of my web’s surfing at the end of the day when all of my other important priorities have been finished and only allow myself 30 minutes to do it.
Staying focused on one task at a time will be hard at first. But over time, just like with any other skill, it will become easier, and you’ll get things done quicker and quicker. Give the tasks you work on the attention they deserve and you will find that the quality of your work will go up, and the time spent doing each task will go down, therefore increasing your productivity and efficiency in the office.
If you are interested in more time saving ideas or techniques, check out the Green Time Management System for College Coaches at www.mandygreencps.com. Or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s make 2013 the most productive year ever!